H&P Project Updates: ICON BRICKELL, B E F O R E

Not every single decorating job I get called in to do is for homeowners who have no idea how to begin and need someone to put a look together for them. One that speaks to their true nature and soul and is representative of who they are and how they live. My job at that point becomes trying to figure those things out through an, at times, challenging process of uncovering and identifying. One, which they, themselves, have trouble articulating.

No, sometimes I get called in because the homeowners have tried it all (in their minds). They appreciate the direction and strides they’ve already taken, are confident about what they want, but know that something is missing. That their efforts are falling short and they can’t quite put a finger on why. You’d think, as a designer, I’d want to come in and get rid of it all (especially when someone other than you has had a crack at it)- start from the beginning. Truth is, when you have an already incredible foundation to work with- starting again is not only unnecessary, but counterintuitive for the way I approach projects. Sometimes it’s just about making some small, but significant changes to a solid jump off point.

You know you’re in for a good decorating time when the building’s lobby looks like this!

You know you’re in for a good decorating time when the building’s lobby looks like this!


Such was the case with my latest project at the ICON BRICKELL. My job here was to incorporate some new design details that would make an already beautiful space for a perfect couple, feel, well, more “like them.”

To say I was excited from the minute I walked into the lobby of the building, would be an understatement. I shared some additional pics of it during a progress visit in October which you can see here cause seriously, I can’t get enough.

The homeowners had lived in the complex for several years. First as renters, while theirs’ was being built, and then as permanent residents. When they first moved in, they knew they wanted a change of aesthetic. They had worked very hard to get here, their life was changing and the experiences they were enjoying now merited a ‘vibe’ indicative of that. Plus, they were living in this ultra chic apartment on Brickell (with a lobby like the one above)- it’s easy to see how one can get inspired! Though beautiful, their former pieces in a country-french style, which had been collected over years, was just not going to look right in this new modern space. Ready for a change, they slowly started building their furniture pieces and even commissioned a few custom upholstery ones to begin creating this new ‘estilo.’ The results were unique and bold! Accent pieces in jewel tones and dark rich colors…literally the opposite of what they had before, more surprisingly, in how I had always grown to know them. I was surprised (and elated) in a good way, more so because I knew they were Clients who weren’t afraid to take a chance and do daring things (holla, dream Clients), while they, were just growing more and more frustrated with their project. No matter how many high quality investments they made, they sort of always felt there was still something missing. They were hoping I would be the one to figure that out for them.

View from the apartment, 6:24 pm.

View from the apartment, 6:24 pm.

As soon as I walked in, I was floored by the breathtaking view. I mean, gah! I quickly realized that this expanse of light and skyscrapers, also created a spectacular, but harsh backdrop in comparison to the warmth of what trees, flowers and shrubbery usually does for a space, which is quite the opposite. It made me feel conflicted. I’d never worked in a setting such as this (a highrise building) and I had to stop for a moment. For the first time, I truly understood why people who live in “the city” or a downtown area, crave the countryside and have vacation homes there; and why the reverse is true, too. Living full time in suburbia, you understand that your body and soul need a little electricity from time to time- to keep that spark alive! It’s basically human nature in wanting what you don’t have. Maybe it’s just me. This newfound realization, one which I actually felt in my core, however romantic and philosophical it was, actually created a very real element to consider in uncovering what it was that I NEEDED to do to make the space better. Unbelievable to think, but here then was…

Design dilemma #1: a spectacular, but tricky backdrop.

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Next, I noticed the stark white (walls) surrounding the entire apartment in addition to a wall of mirrors (not shown) reflecting the views of the city scape. This coupled with the blue grays of the furniture and upholstery pieces they had already chosen. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that what this apartment really needed was some ‘cozy’ to add to the sophistication.

I’ve known the homeowners for many years and they are possibly the warmest, most loving people you’ve ever met. In addition to that, you have to imagine what they’ve been accustomed to living in all these years- a french country style- which is colorful (albeit soothing), layered, and inviting. Making that transition to something entirely new and foreign is VERY difficult. I think they were bravely trying to go in the opposite direction, but were battling with their innate personalities and who, until now, they had always been. You can’t go from one extreme to the other, especially in your surroundings, and think your subconscious doesn’t somehow sense that. Even if you can’t describe “it.”

The space felt cold and lifeless- and this was NOT indicative of the couples’ essence and they knew that. No matter how much “sleek + chic Miami” you think you want, if your heart is true “Caribbean island breeze”- it’s not ever going to feel right. At all. Sometimes you just need a fresh eye to help you realize that and a trained eye to get it out of you.

Design dilemma #2: all that white paint.

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The last and probably most underrated design element + issue was this gorgeous photograph the couple had brought back from a trip to Argentina, which they had custom framed and hung in their dining room. It was le pièce de résistance- a true showstopper! What was evident to all of us is that the heavy framing on the photograph just took away from its’ beauty- it was just too much for the wall (which is not so small by the way). Too much bling, too much dark, much too much. The buffet and the girl were at odds- and no one was truly winning this competition. I could appreciate what they wanted to accomplish- which was to create a focal point, given the rest of the apartment was lacking that ‘WOW’ factor it so desperately deserved.

We deliberated for a while what to do with her and I knew the best solution (for this one) was actually to start from scratch. Remember how I said we don’t all actually do that? Well, I lied. Sometimes we have no better alternative. People naively underestimate the power of classic, elegant + simple framing- and as you will soon see when the reveal happens- it was a game changer! That, along with moving her to a completely different place allowed her to be seen in her best light.

Design dilemma #3: the tiny dancer.

If you’ve lived in more than one home in your adult life- you may have (eventually) realized that a lot of what you brought from the former house- just doesn’t feel right in this new one. Things don’t sit the same, they don’t work as well. This is why people spend years, moving stuff around- they don’t quite understand why the credenza doesn’t look as great as it did in the old house. And what the heck do I do with this piece of furniture now? Let me put it here on this wall for a few months, let’s see. Nope, doesn’t look good there either. The same is true if you do a large renovation to your existing home. Don’t think for a second that the dated furniture you’ve been living with since the day you got married, which was also a hand me down from your parents’ worn out stuff, amiright?? will somehow fit this new and improved space. It won’t- and your heart will know it.

Evolution is inevitable, and changing styles and looks in your home is one of the most enjoyable experiences ever, and one of the best ways you know you are undergoing a big transformation. Not just in the place you live, but in life in general. Like all growth, change is hard and challenging at times. It’s no different in a home- patience and a little guidance with the process can help, because even though you might think you’re ready for change, your heart will express itself the only way it knows how to. Until it figures it out!

Reveal Coming Soon and I do have to say, it’s cozy and magical and chic AF!

To be continued…

Oh, I almost forgot- check out a photo taken just a mere 16 minutes later.

View from the apartment, 6:40pm

View from the apartment, 6:40pm

…you gotta love Miami, even the crazy weather is beautiful!